Hope For The Dark Days

This written exactly one year ago, and me…perhaps you too?….needing reminders that there is hope! We just rearranged our living area for spring and brought back up this chalkboard with words of life scrawled line by line out in the open where we can all see it clear as day.  And a gentle nudge from this friend to you to write your own? For you? For your brood? After all…we need a map to know where we are going.

They shout and rail against each other these three of the same seed. The “she did” and “he didn’t” hurl through the air and I wince as doors slam and feet stomp hard and all this before day has dawned. I pull covers tighter and hope beyond hope that it ceases before I have to be the one to crawl out of my cozy cocoon and halt it. How are we to live in peace when even flesh and blood tear each other word by word with actions louder than megaphones? This mother’s heart is laid clean open, fractured fragile, and I wonder what will be the glue to piece it back together. Another war of words begin and I join tit for tat because sometimes when you are hurting all you know to do is hurt back and I am in this moment that one I hoped to never be.  It’s there in all this broken jumbled mess, I run. Run from shame and failure and not getting it right day after day after day gone by. How does one go from stellar mom to stellar failure in one sure blow?

We muddle through the day…barely…and I chop vegetables and tears mix with meal prep and I am brought low for there is nothing like a day gone south to remind that in all this striving and struggling to be..to live…I cannot do this. My frail body can’t begin to muster the strength, the right living I need to teach my children how to love for I am failing at every turn drenched in selfishness and my own desire to not be inconvenienced by the needs of others.

I find myself whispering Romans…this book that has become like a dear friend of mine since lent…and there He cuts through to the heart of it all and I begin to feel life filling these veins again. There is hope and a promise that I can’t but HE can in me because I am in Him and He is making me…US…new! Husband comes in to the wafting smells of shepherds pie and I think how much we need our Shepherd right now.  These frazzled sheep needing someone to lead them to cool waters and green pastures, spreading a table in front of the enemy who would seek to destroy through lies and says instead have no fear for I have overcome so you can have victory here and now.

It’s then I grab chalk and write words that speak life to the dead, words that we can’t escape because they are forefront in the room visible to all where we break bread because God knows that if we don’t write it on the door posts of our home, if we don’t tie them to our hands or carry them with us we will forget and isn’t forgetting the first step to forfeiting peace? We must talk about them from the moment our feet hit the ground running for oatmeal to the last second we are kissing wearied brows before bed for these words are truth that pierces darkness and if we do not pause to renew the mind, it will whither dry.

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This brood of ours gathers solemn over dinner and we begin to read it together, this manifesto, our new family motto:

 Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” ~Romans 12

Food fills the belly, chatter commences and hope is dawning in the heart of this Mom.

Row Row Row Your Boat

row boatHe stands there humble before us weary souls needing any kind of hope someone can drop in our bucket on Sunday meeting, and it’s what he says next that I cannot get out of my bones.  How faith is a lot like getting in a row boat.  You have to face the opposite direction you’re going if you’re to move anywhere.  Seeing is believing and we must keep our eyes on what He has already brought us through if there’s gonna be any courage to leap into the unknown.  And just like ripples on water leave a trail, writing down God’s goodness reminds us He is faithful and He is with us and even in the darkest night of rowing and wrestling with fears and thinking that it’s never going to end we can come back to the anchor that He is there all along calming the incensed storm, making roads through red seas. And this week with fevers raging and pain ravaging I’ve preached this to myself at sun rising and sun setting, because one can get so worn that you just can’t take the step of faith into the next moment…the next hour…and please, don’t mention tomorrow.

It was a hot summer lemonade kind of day when my sis handed me a book a few years ago. I was at a desperate place for Hope and feeling like it was never coming.  I flopped on the couch to read a page written by this lovely farm girl Ann Voskamp and found myself weeping and not stopping for hours but taking the dare to start counting One Thousand Gifts because I had lived in the desert for too long and swallowed the lie that I couldn’t live fully right where I was. I began slowly unwrapping joy in the mundane, in the trials, in the life I was rushing through in my futile attempts to a better place all the while missing so much of what God had given.

And what I learned that summer of ’11, is that this brain is a leaky sieve that will forever forget unless I stop to say thanks, stilling this restless wandering heart with the greatness of God. Because it’s not that God has changed or isn’t present when I’m facing the impossible or the common or the ugly, it’s that I’ve forgotten to look for Him.  The fog and the waves and the noise distracts and it’s when I turn to look where I’m going instead of keeping my back to the wind that the boat rocks and my eyes are on what He has yet to reveal instead of on what He has already done. And I’m paralyzed with fear, hopelessness, defeat, discouragement.

There once was a people like me who watched with their own eyes our miracle wonder-working God throwing Jordan’s waters into heaps.  And it would make you think that being at an event like that would sear the brain so one could never not remember, and yet God comprehends our human condition well enough to know we need something visual, something concrete or we will forget when the next test comes along and He knew their test was right around the corner. A scary one involving possible bloody battle with BIG people and He saw them shaking in their boots. So he parts the water again (the first time it was the Red Sea, this time it’s the Jordan river) and tells Joshua to send someone from each tribe down to the place in the Jordan where they had come and bring a stone with them back to where they will spend the night so they will remember and tell their children and their children’s children about our great God who makes a way through deep waters. I can see them trudging there and back, stones burdening shoulders and them tossing twelve boulders down among circled wagons for the night because it’s bound to get dark and night will come and yet there in the black are these forms not going anywhere, memorials of who God is. What he did, what He’ll do again.

Spending the long night somewhere? Uncertain of what the next moment holds? Wondering if you can hold out for one more sunrise? Perhaps we both need to climb back into our row boats, pick up the oars with our back to the wind and storm, nestle deep into the arms of the One holding us guiding each row and turn our faces resolutely towards the one thing we know….His faithfulness. Let’s go back to the Jordan rivers of our lives and gather some stones.